Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aging and Consumers

Let’s face it. Not many people really want to get old, but nonetheless it happens to us every single day. As we age, there are new challenges to our daily life that we never considered when we were younger. And it’s not just our waist lines and brainpower that change. Among the changes we can expect as we age are decreased joint mobility in knees and elbows, increased muscle fatigue, slower movements, decreased shoulder movement, shorter leg movements and strides, curvature of spine, reduced eye sight, difficulties with hearing, and loss of balance. Whew…

To help understand the physical aspects of aging, researchers at MIT work in what is called the “Age Lab” to better understand the challenges associated with advancing age. Developed by researchers, AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) is a suit that can be worn by students, product developers, scientists, engineers, and business executives, to help them understand the physical challenges faced by an aging population. Wearing the AGNES suit gives new insights into even the simplest of tasks such as shopping, reading labels, and making a cup of tea. Even the simplest tasks of grocery shopping and transportation bring on new challenges when we cannot fully extend our arms, legs, or read the itty-bitty print on a product label.

Is there any good news to aging? Yes, aging brings us insights and wisdoms that were lost on us in our 20s. We get smarter, more financial secure, and gain stability in our homes and family life. Now if only we could slow down the pesky physical limitations, it would be a great day.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. View the MIT Lab site and video at
  2. Ask students what the implications are for companies and marketers as the U.S. population ages.
  3. What products need to be modified? What about packaging modifications?
  4. Divide students into team and have them consider areas such as transportation, communication, health care, policies, housing.
  5. What are areas of concern? How can companies address the unique needs of an older population?

Source:  MIT Web site: //


1 Comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

Make product claims real – Febreze in New York


Let’s face it – we as consumers do not always believe the claims that are made by companies in advertisements. We are skeptical when companies make grandiose claims about how great their products are: brighter, fresher, cleaner, lovelier, sexier, smarter, healthier, and all that jazz. We want to see the proof – or in the case of Febreze, we want to smell the proof.

To prove the point about Febreze eliminating bad odors, they created a “live smell test lab.” Using a container that had been used to ship seafood, it was dropped into the Meatpacking District of New York city. With a window in place, lots of Febreze plug-ins, and some furniture, unsuspecting people were approached on nearby streets, blindfolded, brought to the container, and asked to identify the smells and location where they were at. The responses lived up to Frebreze’s claims on eliminating odors and making the room smell fresh.

The folks handling the marketing at Proctor & Gamble for Febreze understand consumer behavior. Consumers trust our own experiences – and even other consumers – long before they trust a company’s claim.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Ask students to think of advertising claims from products. (e.g., new and improved, cleaner, whiter clothes, fresher breath, etc.)
  2. Do they believe these claims? Why or why not?
  3. Show the Febreze video clip:
  4. Will this be effective in proving the company’s message? What else could be done?
  5. Have the student list a number of product categories for items found in their homes.
  6. Next, ask students to apply the concepts Febreze used to other household products.
  7. Using this type of experiential marketing approach, how could similar promotions be conducted for other household products?

Source:  Advertising Age, 5/9/12

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

Target stops selling Kindles

Amazon is not just the world’s largest online book retailer – it is the also the world’s largest online retailer. And lest you think that Amazon only runs its operations on one ecommerce site, consider the variety of companies and sites owned and operated by Amazon:,,,,, and What do all these sites have in common? They can easily supply all of our household needs through online shopping and home delivery. This breadth and depth of products and services presents new dilemmas for brick-and-mortar retailers.

One retailer, Minneapolis Minn. based Target, is taking the Amazon threat seriously enough that it will stop selling Kindle e-reader devices in its stores. With roughly 1,800 stores across the nation, Target has been one of the biggest carriers of Kindles in its stores and was actively courted by Amazon to carry its products when the e-readers were first launched several years ago.

Selling Kindles is not the problem for Target – the problem is that once customers get used to Amazon Prime’s free shipping, and the ability to shop online from the Kindle Fire tablet-like device, customers are more likely to compare prices online and eventually shift their buying to Amazon, and other online retailers. Retailers have also seen an increase in consumer “showrooming” habits – where consumers examine the products in the stores, then surf online to find better prices, sometimes while physically standing in the store aisles. At Christmas, Amazon launched a mobile promotion on its Price Check app that gave shoppers a five percent discount on items scanned into smartphones while at a store.

Target has taken note of the changes at Amazon and is now taking steps to distance it from the online retailer and build a stronger presence of its own both online and in the store. It will be interesting to see if other retailers follow Target’s lead on this topic.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are Target and Amazon now competitors?
  2. Take a poll of students – ask them what companies/sites are owned by Amazon. Com.
  3. Then, show the presentation about Amazon-owned companies located on
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team examine an Amazon company. What are the similarities, messages, and target markets for these sites?
  5. Have students discuss the ramifications of Target dropping Kindle products. Will this hurt either company? Should other retailers who carry the Kindle follow Target’s lead?
  6. Discuss Amazon’s strategy with the Kindle products and Amazon Prime.
  7. How does this strategy impact consumers and change shopping habits?

Source:  New York Times, Ad Age,, Minneapolis Star Tribune, other news sources, 5/2/12

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities